Venice, CA—Federal agents and local law enforcement, at the behest of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), conducted an armed raid on raw organic food distributor Rawesome for the second time recently, according to numerous reports. The authorities seized food valued at $70,000 from shelves at the co-op’s facility, and poured hundreds of gallons of raw milk down the drain. Rawesome provides club members direct access to raw food from local farmers.

The legal intervention stems from the allegation that raw milk is being sold through the operation without a permit. Sale of raw milk is legal in California, but only with the proper licenses and permits, which FDA claims owner James Stewart does not possess. Products specifically cited in this case include raw goat milk, cheese and yogurt.

After the arrests of Stewart and two farmers connected with the co-op, a crowd of around 150 gathered outside the Los Angeles Courthouse to protest the raid, chanting, “Hey hey, FDA—don’t take our milk away,” according to published accounts. The Rawesome facility had been raided previously, and the search warrant authorities possess now allows for future raids without prior notice.

Sale of unpasteurized milk has been a frequent target of FDA in recent years, due to concerns over the potential for salmonella, e. coli and other illnesses. Proponents of consuming raw milk cite superior nutritional profiles of untreated milk, but opponents including FDA and the Centers for Disease Control believe the health risk is substantial enough to require regulation.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, October 2011 (online 8/12/11)